SYDNEY: Australia on Sunday (Mar 15) announced anyone arriving into the country will face mandatory 14-day self-isolation, in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are going to have to get used to some changes in the way we live our lives,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, adding the measure will come into effect from midnight (1300 GMT Sunday).
Morrison also said all cruise ships will be banned entirely and that he expects “visitor traffic will dry up very very very quickly.”
“If your mate has been to Bali and they come back and they turn up at work and they are sitting next to you, well they will be committing an offence,” Morrison said.
Australia has detected 269 cases of the COVID-19 virus so far, with a large number of new cases now coming from the United States, Morrison said, describing the country as a “major source”.
Australia has already imposed bans for travellers from Italy, South Korea, Iran and China, countries with high infection rates.
The bans mean foreign nationals who have been in any of the four nations will not be allowed into Australia for 14 days from the time they left those countries.
Australian citizens and permanent residents travelling from those countries will still be able to enter Australia but must self-isolate for a fortnight after returning home.
READ: New Zealand says all entering country must self-isolate to contain COVID-19
The government has already advised against non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday.
Morrison on Sunday urged people to practice “social distancing”, such as keeping a metre apart and not to shake hands, in order to reduce transmissions.
He said the rate of community transmission had started to increase and that social distancing would help limit demand on the healthcare systems, which would mean better treatment for elderly and those in remote and vulnerable communities.
“Slowing the spread will free up beds,” he said, “That’s what happens when you get this right and we’ve seen other countries going down this path.”
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Neighbouring New Zealand on Saturday said it would require incoming travellers, including its own citizens, to self-isolate for two weeks and banned cruise ships.
The Australian government is yet to restrict the operation of schools, but earlier on Sunday the Health Minister Greg Hunt did not rule out such a measure in the coming months.
The new phase of restrictions come as the Australian government launches a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign focused on good hygiene, and the formation of a Coronavirus Business Liaison Unit to address the economic fallout.